Terry Wooten, the chief U.S. District Judge of Columbia, South Carolina, has sentenced 37-year-old darknet drug dealer Eric Hughes to 168 months in federal prison.
Hughes pleaded guilty last year to drug conspiracy and money laundering.
He was arrested in August 2017 by a Drug Enforcement Administration-led task force, after he was involved in a car crash where the pills he was transporting were spilt on the roadway.
Conferring on to local sources, Hughes and two of his co-defendants ran a pill manufacturing operation that sold counterfeit Oxycodone and Xanax prescription drugs.
It is believed that drug users across the U.S. bought his pills from the dark web where he was identified under the moniker Genius Bar.
Moreover, it is claimed that he has been overseeing the operation since 2012 and has sold millions of counterfeit pills to unsuspecting users as well as distributors.
Selling Drugs As ‘Genius Bar’
Evidence presented to the court show that Hughes bought a pill press to make his pills look similar to the real prescription pills.
He outsourced his essential ingredients, alprazolam and synthetic opioid U-47700, from China using the dark web.
Using the internet as his official guidebook, Hughes would mix the ingredients, dye and a binding agent to produce approximately 4,500 pills an hour.
The operation was carried out in clandestine pharmaceutical laboratories set up in rented vacation homes in Bluffton, Sullivans Island, Fripp Island, Isle of Palms and Tybee Island in Georgia.
Hughes and his associates would use the houses for a month or so where it is believed approximately 500,000 counterfeit pills would be produced before they vacated.
Revenue collected from the operation, predominately in Bitcoins, was laundered through various accounts to keep their source out of sight.
In total, investigators seized around 150 Bitcoins worth $1 million, most of which were hidden in multiple places like gambling sites.
Additionally, Hughes also gave family members Bitcoins worth $200,000.
The U.S. Marshal’s office has since auctioned the funds, but investigators believe that Hughes has more Bitcoins stashed away.
Hughes has been in the Lexington County Jail after the judicial courts denied him bond.
During the bond hearing, the prosecutor in charge of the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim May, argued that he represented a threat to society and a flight risk.
The assistant attorney cited reasons that during his arrest, he possessed a loaded pistol and fake identification as well as his stash of Bitcoins.
Contaminated Rental Houses
Hughes is expected to cover the cost of cleaning up the contamination left by the clandestine laboratories.
Through his testimony, Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy William Cobia stated that owners of a house in Tybee Island spent $213,000 cleaning the contamination.
The other two his alleged co-defendants, Willie Rice, 37, and Taylor Place, 25, are also expected to plead guilty to the same charges.
If found guilty they both face 20 years in a federal prison with no parole.
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